Telenor and Ooredoo were announced as the winners of telecom licenses by the Burmese government on June 27th, 2013. This comes after the government announced earlier this year that they’re opening up their telecommunication industry to foreign investment. Bloomberg reports that mobile phone penetration in Burma is only at 9 percent, compared to Cambodia where it’s 70 percent and Laos where it’s 87 percent.
In May, The Human Rights Watch (HRW) published a 24-page report titled Reforming Telecommunications in Burma where they ”expressed concern that existing censorship and security laws allow the Burmese government or military to require the help of telecom companies to spy on or silence bloggers, activists, and journalists. Burma lacks an electronic privacy law to prevent arbitrary and overbroad surveillance practices, and the courts have no history of independence from the government. The Burma military retains broad power to declare public emergencies and take control of telecommunications equipment. In addition, rights-restricting laws that the authorities used in the past to silence critics have not been repealed.”
Other investors will be watching Telenor and Ooredoo closely as they attempt to navigate through a political environment that’s historically neglected human rights. How these events play out will have a significant impact on future foreign investments.
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